Sept. 25, 2018
NORTH ADAMS, MASS. — Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) announces the campus will host two OLLI (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute) lecture series this fall: “Are Robots Moral? The Ethics of Artificial Intelligence,” by Gerol Petruzella, Ph.D; and “Blacks in Berkshire County, Massachusetts,” by Frances Jones-Sneed, Ph.D. Both courses will begin on Wednesday, Sept. 26, and continue on through October.

Petruzella’s lecture series, “Are Robots Moral? The Ethics of Artificial Intelligence,” will discuss how, as digital systems become ever more complex and autonomous, the world increasingly is relying them to take real-world actions in contents from the highway to the stock market – with real consequences for human wellbeing.

Offered in four sessions – on Sept. 26, and Oct. 3, 10 and 17 – this course will investigate and challenge the relations among classical systems of moral reasoning, the limits of our traditional moral intuitions, and uncharted and unsettling new ethical questions arising from systems that blur the boundaries of personhood.

Jones-Sneed’s “Blacks in Berkshire County” series will comprise six sessions, which will take place on Sept. 26, and Oct. 3, 10, 17, 24 and 31. This course will examine African Americans through four centuries, from the colonial period to the modern civil rights era. The central focus is on five African Americans whose lives link a sparsely populated rural county, with events and movements of enduring national significance.

Each of the people Jones-Sneed discusses represents a different historical period in the county and nation. In these five representative African American lives, there are illuminating intersections of local and national scenes, as their lives intersect decisive moments in American history. From primary sources and biographical accounts of these figures, course participants will discover how local and regional history enhance the broader patterns of United States’ history.  

Petruzella holds a Ph.D in philosophy from the State University of New York at Buffalo, with a specialization in ancient Greek ethics. He is an adjunct philosophy professor and the coordinator of academic technology at MCLA. His work focuses on the intersections of digital media and pedagogy, particularly in educational gaming. He is a 2018 participant in the Ethically Aligned Design v2 standards workgroup of the Global Initiative on Ethics of Autonomous and Intelligent Systems.

Jones-Sneed, Ph. D is professor emeritus of history, political science and public policy at MCLA, and a former director of women’s studies at MCLA. She has taught and researched local history for more than 25 years. She directed three National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) grants entitled “The Shaping Role of Place in African American Biography” in 2006, “Of Migrations and Renaissances: Harlem/NY and South Side/Chicago, 1915–75” in 2008, and “African American Biography” in 2011.

She spearheaded a national conference on African American biography in September 2006, is co-director of the Upper Housatonic Valley African American Heritage Trail, a former board member of MassHumanities, and presently is a member of the Samuel Harrison Society. She was a 2008 NEH Summer Fellow at the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute at Harvard University in Boston.

For more information and to register, call the OLLI office, (413) 236-2190, or go to

Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) is the Commonwealth's public liberal arts college and a campus of the Massachusetts state university system. MCLA promotes excellence in learning and teaching, innovative scholarship, intellectual creativity, public service, applied knowledge, and active and responsible citizenship. MCLA graduates are prepared to be practical problem solvers and engaged, resilient global citizens.​

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